How Can I Help My Child with Gender Dysphoria?
As we’ve lightly touched on, the single best thing you can do to help your child on how to deal with gender dysphoria or how to help teenagers with gender identity is simply be there for them. Being supportive includes valuing who they are and loving them wholeheartedly. Talking openly with your child about what they’re experiencing and what they need from you is key. Understanding how you can help them will be instrumental.
If your child decides they’re ready to tell others about their gender identity, you can be there as a support system. By helping your child affirm their gender, you’re helping them discover how to come out and to be their authentic self.
The simplest and most effective thing you can do to help your child with gender dysphoria is: love them, acknowledge them, and let them know you’re there for them. Oftentimes, children who struggle with gender dysphoria feel very alone. Knowing that their parents are there and want to help them can make all the difference in the world.
“Check in often, with yourself and with your child. Make sure you have someone to process and debrief with, so that your mental health is taken care of in order to be the best you can for your child. And check in with them. Invite conversation, ask questions. Make sure you take your understanding of their experience directly from them.”
Educating yourself as a parent is an amazing way for you to help your child. Take the time to learn about the types of LGBTQIA+ mental health issues in teens. Make sure you dive into everything you can about gender dysphoria. The more you understand what your child’s going through, the more you’ll be able to connect with them. When your gender non conforming youth feels that they can relate to you, they’re more likely to be open and honest.
Get them in gender-affirming therapy
Gender-affirming therapy focuses on helping children affirm their gender identity rather than trying to “fix” them. There are several core themes of gender-affirming therapy, including addressing:
- Medical treatment
Some of the work that’ll be done in therapy can include:
- Affirming gender
- Offering space for children and families to process and understand their experience
- Giving support through legal services and healthcare providers
Therapy also creates a safe zone and allows for diversity to be something that’s accepted, encouraged, and respected.
Taking the time to ask your child questions about what they’re experiencing or feeling lets them know you’re willing (and want) to hear them. Communicating that you have an interest in them helps them understand that you truly and genuinely care. Your gender diverse child deserves and needs to feel safe, and engaging them in conversation is one way to do that.
Allow for (and encourage) exploration
Social exploration is one of the first ways young people or a child can begin exploring their gender identity. Gender expression might include your child trying new styles of clothing, hairstyles, names, and makeup that align with the gender spectrum they identify with.
Social expression is known to help people who have gender dysphoria develop their sense of self. It’s a great way to encourage your child to accept their gender identity.
Help them with a medical transition
Sometimes medical treatment can help children if that’s a route they are interested in exploring. Medical transition is a step that can be considered in an effort to help align gender and physical characteristics. Some medical treatments can include:
- Hormone therapy: Hormones are given to force physical changes that’ll help align gender identity with sex parts.
- Puberty blockers: If your child hasn’t decided on hormone therapy yet, puberty blockers can help by preventing the developmental changes that are common during puberty.
- Gender confirmation surgery: Surgery can be completed to allow the physical body to completely align with the gender. Some people decide to only do certain types of surgery.
Advocate for your child
We all want to be a great advocate for our kids. Advocating for a child who’s struggling with gender dysphoria reassures them that you’re on their team. Speak up when you hear or see transphobic comments. Let your child know that you’re there for them and that you’ll always fight to protect them.
“The most important thing you can do for your child is to consistently send the message that you are with them, they are not alone in this experience. If a child knows they are unconditionally loved and supported, it provides the solid foundation needed to share fully, ask questions, and feel all of their feelings. It also builds trust. As they encounter various situations and different experiences, they’ll rely on you for guidance, just as they would rely on you with other social and developmental phases of their lives, and they need to trust you for this.”
If your child or teenager has recently come to you and discussed their gender dysphoria, it’s essential that you help them find the support they need as soon as possible. Your child might be experiencing extreme mental health distress that could quickly manifest into more. Gender dysphoria support for parents can be found through support groups, online, or from your doctor or therapist.